By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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In my opinion, the only way we will ever again see Pattaya as anything close to the gay paradise it once was will be, once the pandemic comes to an end - if it ever does, would be a complete resurrection of the gay scene. Regarding the beach, for me the main attraction, along with the sun and sand, was the hordes of willing young gents hoping for hookups with gay farang. That disappeared with the advent of the apps. The declining gay scene didn't exactly help either. And then factor in the disdain for a suntan shared by so many Thai boys.

Obviously the bar scene needs a major comeback as well. Boyztown and Sunee Plaza are virtually deserted. Jomtien Complex was doing fairly well, but now all the bars are closed yet again and many of the boys still in Pattaya have already returned to their home provinces.

Along with everything else, the gay scene will need a return of droves of gay farang. We're not going to see that any time soon.

Even so, and even under present circumstances, I don't know of anywhere else where the gay scene is better than Thailand. If you do, please tell us where it is.
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Unmasking at Pattaya’s semi-deserted gay beach

By Barry Kenyon

April 30, 2021

With all the bars and clubs closed indefinitely, you might expect the beaches to be doing better. After all, Pattaya’s gay beach – actually in Jomtien – has been popular with male tourists, expats and locals for over 30 years. In 2015, the golden sands attracted over five thousand positive likes on Trip Advisor and Facebook. That particular year, to judge from social media, seems to have been the high spot.

These days it is hard to determine where the gay section of a two mile promenade actually is. “Somewhere in front of the Rabbit Resort,” I was told by a lottery-ticket seller. One deckchair renter has actually erected a Rainbow notice in the sand, emphasizing the compulsory free wi-fi, but his customers totaled just two elderly Germans sipping soda water and a breathless Liverpudlian attempting press-ups.

Some of the other beach concession operators were doing worse. At best, there were 20 customers competing for 500 or more deckchairs and loungers. Chit, a beach attendant of long standing, says the reasons for absenteeism are more diverse than the pesky virus. “Gay beaches and swimming zones have gone out of fashion,” he says. “The modern idea is social mixing with straights, families and gays all together under the sun.” He adds that older European gays, the mainstay of his business, didn’t like the trend and stopped coming.

Another problem, Chit feels, is the Pattaya local authority which has developed the whole Dongtan Beach area with car parks, a concrete road and mysterious open areas without any seating, shade or facilities. Not to mention the restrictions on food and drink consumption enforced by occasional police patrols or the men from the Food and Drugs Administration. “They call it progress,” claims Chit, “but the whole area has lost its sense of fun. They even chased away the manicure ladies and the beach massage boys.”

He could be right. A recently-erected hoarding in Thai, Chinese and English describes in 38 sections the latest austere regulations. You can’t drink or possess alcoholic drinks, mustn’t join a picnic or barbeque but must wear a mask at all times, must quit the area by 8 p.m. and resist the temptation to play music or make a loud noise. And so on. Nowhere in the exhaustive list does it say what you can do.

Certainly very little was going on. Two deviantly maskless Thais were playing that mysterious board game which looks like chess, but isn’t, on a table planted wobbily in the sand. An elderly Thai man was offering foot massages which he claimed were permitted as long as they took place in the open air. A lady was changing her baby’s nappy near an ice cream cart which was parked on the roadway where stalls are said to be legal.

A solo American retiree was keen to explain to all and sundry why he was not wearing the obligatory mask. “They fog up your glasses and breathing-in carbon monoxide can kill you,” he pronounced. He said he was thoroughly browned-off with Thailand and would be trying Cambodia next, apparently oblivious that Phnom Penh is in total lockdown and that all foreign tourists are strictly banned from entry.

Chit summed up the situation. “Gay people like busy places, so the scene here has collapsed.” But he produced his cell phone with all the popular gay hook-ups displayed there: Grindr, Hornet, Scruff and the rest. “I make my money these days translating messages for farang and arranging introductions,” he says. “There’s absolutely no future in beach umbrellas.”

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... ach-353292

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Signs of life on Pattaya beaches during the lockdown

By Barry Kenyon

May 12, 2021

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/signs- ... own-355210

For this one, you have to click on the link. The entire article consists of photos. Make sure to read the captions.

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My own crystal ball tells me if the powers-that-be truly believe Pattaya is going to reopen in October based on the latest scheme and attract hordes of tourists, they're dreaming. I agree with Barry. Even if everything does reopen, I doubt it will attract enough tourists to put a major dent in Pattaya's economic situation or anywhere else in Thailand. That is compounded with Chinese tourists being unable to go to Thailand at all for the time being.

I think it is a chicken and the egg situation. Will tourists start coming in numbers enough for the venues they seek to reopen or will the venues reopen first in anticipation of a major influx of tourists.

Regretfully, I don't see either being what will really happen. I think Thailand will have to do much more - very much more - than say "Ok tourists, you can come now." and just leave it at that.
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Pattaya’s reopening in October is still touch and go

By Barry Kenyon

May 23, 2021

Economic gurus say that Thailand’s Sandbox proposal to reopen the country to foreign tourists in coming months is extremely ambitious. The idea is to offer vacations without quarantine to vaccinated foreigners from July 1 in Phuket and from October 1 in Pattaya and several other tourist-friendly locations. The Tourist Authority of Thailand’s latest website remains confident about the Sandbox timetable.

But Singapore-based Barclays Bank economists Brian Tan and Shreya Sodhani, in a new report, say that the recent surge in numbers of reported infections in Thailand will likely lead to delays in reopening. “In our base case, we think Phuket will reopen for tourism in September, followed by a few more provinces in December. We expect Bangkok to be reopened last, and only late next year,” they wrote.

Thai authorities are aiming to administer one shot of the vaccine to 70 percent of its population, plus foreign residents, by September according to Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. But critics say that a mass immunization programme has hardly begun, whilst the country has been forced to secure vaccines from multiple brands after a new Covid-19 outbreak has seen cases quadruple and fatalities increase six-fold since the beginning of April.

Boonanan Pattanasin, president of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, said that the current rate of vaccination in the Pattaya area was too slow to achieve the 70 percent baseline by the end of September. Although there has recently been a decline in the number of coronavirus cases in Pattaya itself – now numbering around 15-20 daily – the key to reopening the city is vaccination. But supplies were hard to obtain, with the priority being Bangkok where clusters of virus variants are still being discovered.

Meanwhile travel agents round the world say the confusion around Sandbox is restricting interest in travel to Thailand. Marc Jouvet, spokesman for Pacific Area Travel, said, “People want to know if the beaches and entertainment facilities will soon reopen. There is no point in admitting holidaymakers if they are faced with padlocks on places they want to visit.”

Manchester-based travel agent Hugh West said, “The British grading of travel destinations using traffic light colours has been a disaster with ministers giving different accounts of what they mean.” He said the most important things for Thai authorities were to simplify the complex entry and visa regulations and to “let us know when the pubs in Pattaya reopen.”

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/pattay ... -go-356713

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There is another reason why I never attend these kinds of sex parties or any others - I never know about them. Besides, "I ain't been invited".
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Chemsex gay culture in Thailand not a farang issue at present

By Barry Kenyon

May 25, 2021

The arrest of dozens of men at the Faros Sauna 2 in Bangkok for breaching the country’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and committing drug-related crimes has highlighted the emergence of chemsex parties as the “new normal”. Chemsex is the practice of having consensual and enhanced gay sex with multi-partners whilst under the influence of certain drugs such as crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB.

Much of the media here and overseas have given the impression that western tourists were participating in the event – for example using file photographs of anonymous white men in handcuffs – yet there is no evidence that any non-Thais were involved in this or, indeed, in some previous chemsex arrests in Thailand over the past eighteen months. However, it has to be noted that a full list of those arrested has not been officially issued. That’s not unusual.

The reality, of course, is that there are virtually no foreign tourists in Thailand right now. The expats here are mostly work permit holders, with an income to protect, and settled retirees who know full well the dangers of breaking Covid-19 restrictions: they will lose their visas and be barred from re-entry. According to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the vast majority of those attending chemsex parties are aged 20-40. Most expats are considerably older than that and are heterosexual. Gay pensioners anyway do not provide the mainstay of the chemsex market.

A spokesman for KRUBB Bangkok, a gay counseling center, said that up to a dozen Thai patients per week were now turning up for help, compared with one or two before the pandemic. Sergeant Shaowpicha Techo, a Bangkok-based psychologist, said no foreigners had turned up there. Chemsex users are at risk off drug addiction or overdoses, as well as mental health problems, HIV infection and violence including physical assault and worse. Not to mention being prime targets for the pesky virus to invade.

In April, the Thai government closed all bars and nightclubs in an attempt to curb the pandemic and, according to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, thus accidentally created another public health crisis – a spike in chemsex cases. Gay hook-up apps such as Blued and Grindr allow their members to look for give-away tags such as “high and horny” or “party and play”, whilst chemsex parties are promoted in some countries on social media.

But this publicity is not common in Thailand as a special police unit monitors Facebook, Twitter etc. Several prostitution rackets here have been raided after unintentional internet tip-offs. Yet the international perspective is awesome. Rusi Jaspal, a professor at De Montfort University in Leicester, said “Chemsex is very pervasive and is now leading to physical and mental illness spreading to hard-to-reach groups across Europe.” The International Association of Providers of AIDS Care described chemsex as a “challenge of proportions we cannot fully comprehend at this time.”

Sources at Pattaya and Banglamung police stations say they do not know of any chemsex prosecutions in the resort. Nationally, the Royal Thai Police’s antinarcotics bureau declined to comment. In Bangkok, the Princess Mother National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment said it had noticed a surge in chemsex during the pandemic, but acknowledged that police and other officials did not yet have any expertise.

Chemsex is a growing yet concealed problem for Thai society. The Bangkok Rainbow Association told Reuters that these parties are the “new normal” amid the pandemic. They are usually well-hidden from prying eyes, though obviously vulnerable to informers. Thai authorities would be foolish simply to dismiss the issue as a stupidity indulged by a tiny fringe. Chemsex is potentially much more of a serious challenge than illegally drinking a couple of beers with your mates or neighbors.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/chemse ... ent-356895

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Tourist number estimates keep getting downgraded. At the moment the expected number of tourists going to Thailand in 2021 stands at 300,000.

Any time estimates are made about tourist numbers, I'd like to know what the figures are based on. I don't see any evidence to suggest hordes of tourists - or even 300,000 - are clamoring to go to Thailand. The estimates are based on what? And how often do those estimates turn out to actually be correct?

If 300,000 really is correct, is that enough to substantially help the tourism industry? They keep talking about reopening tourism. But I rarely see anything about what there will be to attract tourists. And when I do see things they are considering doing, most of what I see is little more than harebrained schemes that, in my opinion, stand little or no chance of working. So, where are they expecting these 300,000 people to be coming from?
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Pattaya’s no quarantine proposal needs more detail

By Barry Kenyon

May 27, 2021

There are many iffs and buts. Yet, assuming Phuket manages to get off the ground its Sandbox tourist plan on July 1 – fully vaccinated foreigners need not quarantine – Pattaya hopes to follow from October 1. Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome chaired a “Pattaya Move On” conference at City Hall on May 26.

The biggest question mark is whether Pattaya can manage to vaccinate 70 percent of its host population by the operating date as well as achieving a single-figure daily infection rate. Chonburi health authorities are reasonably confident they can achieve both aims, so let’s assume they are right.

In government guidelines previously issued, it was clarified that Sandbox tourists will need proof of full vaccination, a certificate of entry from the local Thai embassy, Covid-19 insurance of at least US$100,000, a downloaded Thailand Plus tracking app, a negative PCR test prior to departure and a further Covid-19 test on arrival and proof of accommodation in Pattaya for at least the first seven days.

Confirmation from the Thai immigration bureau or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still awaited on the precise entry documentation which will be required for any Sandbox aspirants. If Thai embassies abroad must work with the current regulations, then that should be announced. It is not uncommon for immigration announcements to be made at the last minute.

What isn’t currently clear is how successful entrants will travel from the airport to Pattaya. The most likely solution would be sealed transport, such as special buses, although the logistics would be difficult as well as unpopular. An alternative approach might be use of the Thailand Plus tracking app to prove personal movements. What consequences might follow if the tourist turned off the app are an ongoing blur issue.

The Pattaya mayor has confirmed that tourists must stay at hotels carrying government-approved hygiene standards and engage in activities in areas designated by the management. How tourists electing to stay at the home of a relative or friend would fit into this paradigm is another enigma to resolve. All Sandboxers will likely have to report to health authorities after seven days, maybe through the app or perhaps with a swab test.

The international market for Pattaya Sandbox is speculative. It is the third most popular resort area after Bangkok and Phuket. Chinese and Indian authorities are unlikely to allow their citizens to participate this calendar year, especially in charter tours which have been a mainstay in the past. The Pattaya mayor in his speech mentioned Germany and Russia. Brits are currently being advised not to travel to Thailand as it is an “amber” or Covid-risky destination.

Assuming the vaccinated tourists actually arrive in Pattaya (presumably the map will be broadly drawn to include neighboring areas such as Banglamung and Sattahip), what will they actually do? One has to assume by then that beaches will reopen and that bars and clubs, or some of them, will have removed their padlocks. The unrelated announcement that 300 American servicemen will be visiting Pattaya this August will hopefully provide some clues.

Pattaya is currently an internationally-deprived ghost town and it is reassuring that City Hall is being proactive in publishing its initial Sandbox proposals for onward consideration by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration next month. But a great deal of detail is waiting to be filled in. And the clock is ticking.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/pattay ... ail-357213

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1 A vast increase in tourist numbers requires a no-quarantine solution & possibly some reduction in other requirements.

2 If we were to assume there is just a single virus type and it's already widespread in Thailand, then allowing vaccinated people to visit areas where >>70% of the population are vaccinated would be low risk. However, in practice, there are numerous mutations of the virus and some other countries are INCREASING restrictions for people coming from countries with the mutations.

3 How this pans out may depend on how the vaccines perform with the mutations. The main measure currently used appears to be infection rates. I would imagine the death rate will be of more interest. For instance, if that remains low & comparable with flu, it would make no sense to have restrictions for covid, when there are none for flu.
However, we don't know the answer to that yet and being cautious is understandable for now.

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Jun wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 4:55 pm
How this pans out may depend on how the vaccines perform with the mutations.
That is a very important point. What about the mutations? I believe it is inevitable that every mutation, along with those to come, will sooner or later all be in Thailand. Unless Thailand finds a way to prevent anyone from entering Thailand at all, including illegally entering - and that is a big problem - I don't see how it can be avoided.

Some are saying once you are vaccinated, there is no more need for the face masks. I think that is a huge mistake. "I've been vaccinated, so I will be fine now." Why does the phrase 'famous last words' come to mind?

I intend to get vaccinated as soon as vaccines become available to us expats. But even with the vaccinations I'm going to continue following all the precautions, including the face masks and social distancing at least until we can be certain there is nothing more to worry about.

That's the safe side and the safe side is the side I like to be on. Whatever I end up dying from, with all the precautions I doubt it will be Covid.

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Gaybutton wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 5:39 pm
Jun wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 4:55 pm
How this pans out may depend on how the vaccines perform with the mutations.
That is a very important point. What about the mutations? I believe it is inevitable that every mutation, along with those to come, will sooner or later all be in Thailand. Unless Thailand finds a way to prevent anyone from entering Thailand at all, including illegally entering - and that is a big problem - I don't see how it can be avoided.
I agree. Most of the mutations are likely to end up in Thailand, as even if they stop the lucrative tourist trade, there will still be illegal immigrants.

However, by the time Thailand has vaccinated a significant proportion of the population, there should be more data from other countries which shows how well the vaccines work with mutations. Including for prevention of death.

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Doubts about Thai Airways’ future are damaging international tourist prospects

By Barry Kenyon

May 29, 2021

Travel agents say they are simply being overwhelmed by numerous questions of potential holidaymakers considering vacation choices this summer. Companies such as Discount Travel, TUI and Siam Tours say there has been considerable interest in Thailand as other neighboring countries – Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines – have more or less banned pleasure visits altogether. But the situation is becoming more muddy rather than less.

The latest question mark is the future of Thai Airways International plc following the decision of the Bangkok Bankruptcy Court on May 28 to defer a decision on a bailout plan by creditors until mid-June. The airline would need a cash injection of at least 50 billion baht (1.65 billion US) to continue its “Smooth as Silk” tradition. Currently, most THAI planes are parked idly on runways, although the company does undertake semi-commercial repatriation flights for Thais and non-Thais stuck abroad.

A spokeswoman for Siam Tours said, “The delay about the future of the national carrier, coming on top of a third wave of Covid-19 infections here, has unnerved many would-be vacationers from Europe who are frightened of losing their money or falling ill far from home.” The Tourist Authority of Thailand has confirmed that the most likely source of income this year will European as both China and India have de facto banned their citizens from pleasure trips pending the coronavirus pandemic.

Defenders of THAI say that the airline in recent years has already taken gigantic steps to reduce losses. They include massive staff redundancies, the slashing of routes and huge reductions in the privileges enjoyed by executives. But critics say that the airline made heavy annual losses since 2013 (except for a small profit in 2016), has long suffered from blatant corruption and made awful choices when buying new planes in the 1990s. THAI’s current liabilities are in the region of 400 billion baht (13.2 billion US).

Other worries that would-be travellers to Thailand raise are the complex visa procedures required for the certificate of entry from Thai embassies, confusion between specific Covid-19 insurance and more general illness and accident cover, lack of clarity about the Sandbox concept for quarantine-free visits and concerns that bars, clubs, beaches and tourist sites will still be closed when they get here.

British tourists thinking of long haul have the extra worry about their government’s weird traffic lights identification of foreign countries into green, amber and red. Thailand is an amber-designated country and official government advice is not to come here. Brits returning are expected to self-quarantine at home, but will need to be isolated in hotels at their own expense if amber turns to red. Thailand’s recorded infections are rising daily at the moment.

Arnold Reese, a Manchester travel agent, said, “A few diehards will always get through, but there can be no mass tourism to Thailand with all the doubts swirling around. With long distance airfares, entry requirements and travel insurance all becoming more expensive, Thailand’s tourist reopening is more likely next year. People here have already booked their summer holidays in big numbers and the choice is Europe in 2021.”

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Pattaya’s expat jab hunters: is the long wait nearly over?

By Barry Kenyon

June 3, 2021

Firstly came the fake vaccination news. Pattaya expats were told on social media to turn up at Pattaya Sports Stadium for their free first jab alongside the locals. That nonsense even led to a disclaimer by City Hall. Another mischief maker on the internet claimed that any foreigner in Pattaya could register on the web portal Pattaya Always Ready which doesn’t exist no matter how frantically you search Google.

When it comes to farang vaccination, it has always been a question of who or what you are. Government spokesman Natapanu Nopakun has now put that into perspective. If you are a foreign diplomat or represent an international organization you will already be on the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s list and can now register with ThailandIntervac.com: official jabbing begins on June 7 although it has been going on in two Bangkok hospitals for weeks.

Ed’s note: clicking on www.ThailandIntervac.com leads to a placeholder that says only, “The vaccination appointment through this website is for embassy staff, consulates, international organizations and their families only. If you are identified that you are not the aforementioned staff, the vaccination appointment will be canceled. Please present the employee card at the registration site.” The site contains no further information or links.

Other priority foreign groupings are foreign students in higher education and those with official work permits: mainly teachers, restauranteurs and technology experts. They have their own routes to a first jab through registration with the appropriate government ministry or with business organizations or via a personal network. In fact at least 200 Pattaya-based individuals in these categories have already had their first jab.

But, of course, most farang expats aren’t in any of those favoured groups. They are the spouses of Thai citizens, retirees, permanent residents, investors and a mixed-bag of “Covid visa extenders” who are supposed to be “stuck” in Thailand and were recently cleared until late September 2021. The biggest single category comprises retirees on one year extensions of stay, said to number around 15,000 in Chonburi province.

They are clearly seen by the authorities as a non-priority sector. Many have tried to register with a variety of official but short-lived Thai apps, even trying to use their yellow registration book or pink card residency as alternatives to the 13-digit Thai ID card. A few managed initially to scrape past the net before being told of an “indefinite delay” in the procedure. Regular and social media erupted with complaints.

Others, mainly retirees, bombarded the public and private hospitals locally to try and get on a registration list. Mostly they were told it was fake news and sent away. One or two hospitals did take names, but only as a marketing exercise to assess demand. It had nothing to do with registering for an actual shot. The largest private hospital in the area even had to employ extra telephone staff to deal with frustrated callers.

But the Covid-19 Situation Administration, the government’s key health committee, has now stated that all remaining foreign residents should register from June 7, ahead of the massive rollout of AstraZeneca doses to supplement Sinovac stocks. A royal order, signed by the king’s sister, Princess Chulabhorn, will allow a Bangkok medical facility that carries her name to begin importing alternative vaccines for distribution.

The newest priority in the farang population are the over 60s, or those in-health, which accounts for most retirees anyway. They are told to register personally at the hospital which has their records beginning on June 7 but without a definite date for inoculation. On the evening of June 3, two Pattaya hospitals said they were still waiting for instructions from a “higher authority”.

With Pattaya hoping to “reopen” to fully vaccinated international tourists in October, there’s an incredible amount of arm jabbing to be accomplished if the host population is to be 70 percent fully vaccinated in barely four months. The latest slogan “Pattaya Will Win” is about to be put to a mighty test.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... ver-358350

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